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Cooper v. DOJ, No. 99-2513, 2016 WL 1048756 (D.D.C. Mar. 14, 2016) (Walton, J.)

Monday, March 14, 2016

Cooper v. DOJ, No. 99-2513, 2016 WL 1048756 (D.D.C. Mar. 14, 2016) (Walton, J.)

Re: Request for records concerning plaintiff's arrest and prosecution

Disposition: Granting in part defendant's motion for summary judgment; denying plaintiff's motion for summary judgment

  • Exemption 7, Threshold:  The court holds that "defendants compiled the documents released . . . for law enforcement purposes."  The court explains that "plaintiff brought this case to obtain records 'concerning his arrest and prosecution,' . . . and the documents in question are directly related to those events[.]"  "Additionally, all the agencies from which the plaintiff seeks to obtain documents are law enforcement agencies for purposes of the FOIA."
  • Exemption 7(C):  The court holds that "the defendants properly relied on Exemption 7(C) to redact" ['''names and telephone numbers' and 'identities' of 'law enforcement officers,' 'government employees,' 'attorneys,' and 'third-party individuals'''].  The court finds that "Exemption 7(C) protects the private information of all persons involved in criminal investigations, including their names or identities, addresses, and telephone numbers."  "And, while the plaintiff alleges that he seeks the information to investigate potential prosecutorial impropriety, his bare and undeveloped allegations do not support a reasonable belief that the alleged misconduct might have occurred."  "Nor has the plaintiff adequately explained how the disclosure of the information in the category one redactions would be probative of the prosecutor’s alleged misconduct."
  • Exemption 7(E):  "[T]he Court holds that Exemption 7(E) protects the violator codes from disclosure."  The court finds that "[defendant's] declaration and supplemental . . . declaration explain how the disclosure of the violator codes might create a risk of circumvention of the law in reasonably specific and logical detail."  "Moreover, the plaintiff does not even attempt to challenge the defendants' explanation."
  • Exemption 7(D):  "The Court agrees that Exemption 7(D) justifies the withholding of the confidential information in these documents, including the identity of the source."  The court finds that "it is reasonable to infer that the information provided was in connection with the DEA's drug importation and distribution investigation of the plaintiff."  The court also notes that defendant "states that 'individuals who provided information about the plaintiff would fear for their safety, since violence is inherent in the trade in . . . cocaine, if their identities or the information they provided was revealed.'"  "These representations more than adequately establish that the source of the redacted information is protected by Exemption 7(D)[.]"
  • Litigation Considerations, "Reasonably Segregable" Requirements:  The court holds that, "[i]n this case, with one minor exception, the defendants have adequately shown that they disclosed all non-exempt portions of the documents at issue."  "The Court has carefully reviewed the redacted documents and agrees with the defendants' assessment that they contain 'limited and careful excision of material and corresponding markings with the [allegedly] applicable FOIA Exemptions.'"  "However, the DEA has yet to show why [one] document . . . contains no reasonably segregable information."  The court finds that "it is unclear whether [the document in question is a] . . . fully redacted document and, if so, on what basis the DEA withheld it."  "On this uncertain record, the Court must reserve judgment on whether [this] document . . . contains any reasonably segregable information and require the defendants to submit supplemental briefing on this issue."
District Court
Exemption 7
Exemption 7C
Exemption 7D
Exemption 7E
Litigation Considerations
Updated April 28, 2016